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19th Ave New York, NY 95822, USA

the death of FM

All through history new technology has made old technology obsolete. With music, we started off with reel to reel tapes and moved to 8-tracks. I’m not sure how 8 tracks ever got out the door however. i never had one that didn’t need a piece of paper shoved in the side of the tape to player (if you don’t understand that you’re too young, Google it) and i never understood how you can be jamming to some Boston, for example, and go from belting out MORE THAN A FEELING and having it wind down, change tracks, and pick back up again. it was such a momentum killer.
Cassettes came along next and suddenly we could listen to entire songs without interruption. If you have a good cassette player, you had auto-reverse AND music search. We could even record our own tapes and make the best tape ever to play in your car. At times you also had to spend a few hours digging the tape out that got eaten by such technology.
Enter the digital age and suddenly I can go directly to songs, play them in any order I wish, shine reflections to the floor that drives the house cat crazy. As that technology grew, I could record my OWN cd’s just like I could with cassettes and even pull the songs to my hard drive and share them with friends.
Whoah. Now things just got interesting.
While LP’s are in the mix here I give them a stay because while all the rest up to the CD generation was going on, LP’s still survived because they still had collectors who simply preferred the sound and artwork that went into vinyl. But in the end their day came also and the value simply got lost in the race to the future.
FM used to be how we listened to and “discovered” if you will new music. A listeners own reach was limited by the strength of his/her FM signal and the ability to cover say an 80 mile distance with a string of speaker cable antennas on your home stereo got the remote towns closer to the big cities. But it was commonplace, everyone had it, knew how to use it, and it’s how we found out what was going on the in the world while driving.
8 tracks came and went. Cassettes followed and now even the venerable cd is dead as downloads have solved 1 problem but tore up a very established industry. But that’s another story all together.
FM was there every step of the way however. They drove the music we bought by having us listen to what they wanted us to listen to and preapproved. Their content was handed to them and all they had to do was hire some DJ’s who could be part time funny and their listenership was all but guaranteed and they didn’t have to really give a damn about the local scene or original content. FM had by and large a captive audience with only different flavors of “approved” music changing it up from station to station.
It would seem that today FM is only alive out of habit and most are becoming the small town newspapers in their draw for why people would even listen to it.
Local weather? Check.
Local traffic? Check.
If you play rock on FM its classic. Even that definition changes according to station. But I simply don’t listen to FM to hear new music anymore. I find it on the Internet and Sirius even has a channel or two that focuses on the Indie artist.
But what *is* the indie artist anymore? It used to be the ones not signed by major labels but they’re not even signing bands until the bands prove they can go it alone. When they do that, what does the label offer anymore? Ok, I just setup a 2nd story in doing this one – I need to stop or I’ll be busy for a while.
The indie artists are the ones still here despite it all and singing because it’s what they do. Writing music, playing the guitar, putting your own blood, sweat and tears into a craft that most can’t understand because it takes more than a few minutes on Facebook to “get”. The solid revenue streams have long since run dry as the industry still grapples with how to cope with the digital age of instant gratification despite a lifetime of work to get there most consumers will never fully understand.
Where ever this industry goes next, FM won’t be leading the way and is now set to not even be a part of it. If they don’t focus on their own regional territories and original content, they’ll be placed on the shelf with the rest of history we’ve left behind in a rush to something new.